The bioelectrochemical generation of hydrogen in microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) is a promising technology with many bottlenecks to be solved. Among them, the proliferation of hydrogen scavengers drastically reduces the cell efficiency leading to unrealistic coulombic efficiencies (CE) and cathodic gas recoveries (rCAT). This work provides a novel theoretical approach to understand, through electron equivalent balances, the fate of hydrogen in these systems. It was validated with a long term operated single-chamber membrane-less MEC. In the short term, H2-recycling (i.e. hydrogen being derived to the anode) resulted in rCAT of only 4% and in CE up to 463%. The 80.5% of the current intensity came from H2-recycling and only the 19.5% from substrate oxidation. In the long term, methane was produced from hydrogen, thus decreasing rCAT to 0 (rCAT = 94.5% when considering methane production). CE was 74.5% suggesting that H 2-recycling only took place when methanogenic activity was marginal. © 2013, Hydrogen Energy Publications, LLC. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights.
- Hydrogen recycling
- Single-chamber membrane-less microbial electrolysis cell